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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/13/22

Guests: Kathleen Belew, Jocelyn Benson, Dana Nessel


Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel`s office has referred the fake electors certificate case to U.S. attorney for potential charges. The Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer just announced the Senate is going to postpone the recess they were going to take next week, and instead will return on Tuesday and go into session on Tuesday to vote on voting rights.>


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

Thanks to you at home as well for joining us here. Very happy to have you here this evening.

So, this is -- this is the dissent, this is from the start of the dissent from Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Sotomayor and Justice Stephen Breyer. I bring this to you tonight because every once in a while the dissent is ring louder in history than the ruling. And this has all the markers of that tonight.

Quote: Every day, COVID-19 poses grave dangers to the citizens of this country, and particularly to its workers. The disease has by now killed almost 1 million Americans and hospitalized almost 4 million. It spreads by person to person contact in confined indoor spaces, so causes harm in nearly all workplace environments.

And in those environments, more than any others, individuals have little control and therefore little capacity to mitigate risk. COVID-19 in short is a menace in work settings. The proof is all around us. Since the disease`s onset, most American Americans have seen workplaces transformed.

So the administrative agency charged with ensuring health and safety in work places did what Congress commanded it to do. It took action to address COVID`s continuing threat in those spaces. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health -- excuse me, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an emergency temporary standard requiring either vaccination or masking and testing to protect American workers. The standard falls within the core of the agency`s mission, to protect employees from grave danger that comes from new hazards or exposure to harmful agents.

OSHA estimates and there is no ground for disputing that the standard they proposed would save more than 6,500 lives and prevent over a quarter million hospitalizations just in six months` time. Yet, today the court issues a stay that prevents the standard from taking effect. In our view, the court`s order seriously misapplies the applicable legal standards and in so doing, it stymies the federal government ability to counter the unparalleled threat that COVID poses to our nation`s workers.

Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the court displays the judgments of the government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies. Quote, we respectfully dissent.

Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissenting today from the ruling by the conservatives on the Supreme Court, which did block the OSHA workplace safety rule for large employers, that would have required workers to either be vaccinated or get regularly tested.

Now in a separate ruling today, the court did leave in place the vaccine requirement for people working in a health care setting. But if you don`t work in a health care setting, if you are stacking shelves or on the factory floor, working in a big open-plan cubicle farm and your workplace doesn`t want to protect from you from COVID-rich environment, well, the Supreme Court just blocked the Biden administration from helping you. The Supreme Court just blocked the Biden administration from being allowed to require.

It`s not necessarily an unexpected ruling given how right wing the Supreme Court is right now and how weird and scientifically uninformed the conservative justices questions were during the oral arguments. But now, it is done. I will have more on that ahead tonight.

We`ll also have more ahead on what`s happening around voting rights. Conservative Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin reiterating again today that they plan to effectively side with Republicans and block any protections for voting rights even as Republicans roll back voting rights and attack them all over the country. Both of those conservative senators met with President Biden in person tonight at the White House. We will have latest on that.

We`ve also got some interesting developments on this story where sort of the now well stuck into, this strange and spreading story about the previously unknown, mysteriously coordinated effort to have Republicans in multiple states forge election documents after the last election, and present themselves as fake electors to the Electoral College.

This is a story we have been covering in recent days if you`ve been watching the show recently. It`s still unspooling. We`ve got more new ahead on it tonight. So that`s coming up as well.

But here`s where we need to tart tonight. As you have heard from the Justice Department this month, in the year since the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, the Justice Department has arrested and charged more than 700 people, with charge -- with participation in that attack in some capacity.


The vast majority of those 700-plus people who have been charged were charged with low level offenses like trespassing. But almost immediately after the attack on the Capitol started, people picking through footage of what happened that day realized that within the crowd of thousands of rioters, many of whom seemed to be sort of throwing themselves willy-nilly at police officers and barricades and windows and doors, within that riotous but mostly uncoordinated crowd, there were some attackers who appeared to be very highly organized.

This is from an associated press report days after the attack. Quote: As President Donald Trump`s supporters massed outside the Capitol last week, a line of men wearing olive drab helmets and body armor trudged purposefully up the marble stairs in a single file line, each man holding the jacket collar of the man ahead, Ranger File is standard operating procedure for a combat team that is stacking up to breach a building. It`s instantly recognizable to any U.S. soldier or marine serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Quote: It was a chilling sign that many at the vanguard of the mob that stormed the seat of American democracy either had military training or were trained by those who did.

Again, that was the associated press reporting just days after the attack. This is the footage though that made it come into very stark relief. This is what that looked like, the military-style stack formation. All right.

There is a bench of yahoos standing around yelling. But who are these guys? This organized group one hand each of them and the next one wearing helmets, wearing coordinated outfits of some kind, purposefully trudging up the stairs like the "AP" said.

Within six weeks, the FBI tracked down and arrested the people who formed that stack on January 6th. And those folks were not just charged with trespassing. They were not just charged even with breaking into the Capitol. They were charged with a conspiracy.

Nine people charged with conspiring to obstruct the certification of the presidential election that was taking place inside the Capitol. It was not just that they showed up to protects and things got out of hand or even that they planned to storm the Capitol just to wreak havoc. The indictment alleged that these guys planned in advance to storm the Capitol with the express purpose of disrupting an official proceeding, the express purpose of disrupting the certification of the election.

And in service of that conspiracy, according to prosecutors, these guys arranged for firearms and combat training. They acquired weapons, lots of them. Even discussed setting up a stockpile of weapons in a hotel just outside Washington, D.C. so they could go retrieve weapons quickly for use on -- on whatever it was they were planning to get themselves into inside the nation`s Capitol on January 6th.

All of those guys previously indicted were part of our right-wing dress-up pseudo paramilitary organization called the Oath Keepers. This is how the federal indictment described the Oath Keepers. The Oath Keepers are a large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias. The Oath Keepers explicitly focus on recruiting former and current law enforcement military and first responder personnel.

The Oath Keepers are led, the indictment said, quote, by person one. And person one, person one, the leader of the Oath Keepers, he surfaced by name in lots of the communications among those folks who were indicted last February, the guys who were in that stack formation heading up to the capitol. Person one, the leader of the Oath Keepers is a guy named Stewart Rhodes.

And yes, that`s him with the eye patch. You will be shocked to learn it had something to do with the unsafe handling of firearms. Yeah, a little accident with a gun. That`s what happened to the eye.

But ever since the 2020 presidential election, as 17 Oath Keepers were arrested and charged for attacking the Capitol in various capacities, as some of those Oath Keepers pled guilty and signed cooperation deals with federal prosecutors, throughout all of this time the Oath Keepers leader with the eye patch, Stewart Rhodes, has been unavoidable for comment.

He has been loudly telling any reporter who gets anywhere near him that yes, the election was absolutely stolen from Donald Trump, and yes, he absolutely encouraged Oath Keepers to be in D.C. on January 6th. And yes, he was there at the Capitol that day communicating with his fellow Oath Keepers. But he always takes pains to say that he did not break the law because he is way too smart to have done anything illegal.

Well, today, Stewart Rhodes was arrested after lunchtime in Texas. That`s his mug shot. Another Oath Keeper guy was arrested in Phoenix around the same time.


And they along with nine other Oath Keepers who had already been arrested and charged in the Capitol attack in various capacities, the 11 of them today were all indicted on the very serious charge of seditious conspiracy.

Now, seditious conspiracy is a charge derives from the concept of sedition, right? It is a charge at a prosecutors have been openly mulling since the beginning of the investigation. You might remember when the Justice Department used to do briefings for the public and press and in the immediate aftermath of the attack, they talked not infrequently at the briefings about seditious conspiracy as a potential charge. They did that right away.

But now, it`s of course more than a year after the attack. This is the first time they`ve actually used it in the indictment unsealed today. And seditious conspiracy basically means a conspiracy to commit sedition, a conspiracy against the government. Specifically the way it`s written in the statute it`s a conspiracy to stop the government from carrying out its laws by force.

Here`s how the indictment describes it. They call it the plot to oppose by force the 2020 lawful transfer of presidential power. Quote, beginning in November 2020, Rhodes, defendant Stewart Rhodes, began disseminating messages on encrypted applications that encouraged his co-conspirators to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power.

For example, on November 5th, 2020, two days after the presidential election, Mr. Rhodes urge followers to refuse to accept the election results and stated, quote, we weren`t getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit.

On November -- two days later, on November 7th, 2020, the day President Trump was projected to have lost the presidential election, Mr. Rhodes wrote to fellow Oath Keepers, quote: We must now do what the people of Serbia did when Milosevic stole their election. Refuse to accept it and march en masse on the nation`s Capitol. He spelled en masse wrong, but that`s okay.

Mr. Rhodes appears to be in those comments referring to the storming of the -- the Serbian parliament in 2000. Mr. Rhodes shared with his followers a video and step by step destruction guide to overthrowing the government he received from a Serbian activist. That step by step guide specifically included storming the parliament. In our country, we don`t call it the parliament, we call it the capitol because it houses our congress, but same idea.

The indictment continues, quote, on December 11th, 2020, Rhodes sent a message to fellow Oath Keepers that stated that if President Biden were to assume the presidency, quote, it will be a bloody and desperate fight. We are going to have a fight. That can`t be avoided.

On December 25th, merry Christmas, Mr. Rhodes wrote, quote, I think Congress will screw him -- meaning screw President Trump over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the S out of them and convince them it will torches and pitch forks if they don`t do the right thing. But I don`t think they will listen.

On December 31st -- happy new year -- an Arizona quick reaction force team member messaged Mr. Rhodes on Signal that people were coming to Washington, D.C. and that, quote, everyone coming has their own technical equipment and knows how to use it, adding a "winky face" emoji. Mr. Rhodes responded, awesome. The Arizona Oath Keeper also said the group would have rifles and manpower.

On January 6th itself, Mr. Stewart Rhodes and his fellow Oath Keepers did go to Washington. Many of them were apparently stationed with what they called quick reaction forces, just outside the district where they stockpiled weapons, presumably ready to be able to access them on short notice and come blazing in.

And these -- you know, these stocks of Oath Keepers began heading toward the Capitol and up the Capitol steps, become a sort of point of the spear for actually breaking into the seat of the nation`s government.

According to today`s indictment, there was not one, but two stacks of Oath Keepers who breached the Capitol different places. Apparently one part of one of those stacks was specifically looking to try to find Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The indictment says, quote, just before 1:30 p.m. in response to a claim by an Oath Keeper affiliate that Antifa breached the Capitol, Mr. Rhodes said, nope, I`m right here, these are patriots.

Rhodes wrote: Pence is doing nothing. As I predicted. All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So, the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They`ve had enough.

At approximately 1:30 p.m., Oath Keepers affiliates on the chat group with Mr. Rhodes posted messages about police officers deploying pepper spray and questioned what the rioters hoped would happen if they got in the Capitol. Person with Rhodes responded at the time we are acting like the Founding Fathers, can`t stand down.


Stewart and I concur.

Mr. Rhodes followed, hey, the founding generation stormed the governor`s mansion in Massachusetts and tarred and feathered his tax collectors and seized and dumped tea in the water, didn`t fire on them but they street fought. That`s where we are now. Next comes our Lexington. It`s coming.

Just one more thing I want to share with you from today`s indictment, because it actually continues beyond January 6th. There is a section of the indictment titled coconspirators continue plotting after the January 6 attack n the Capitol. Quote: Throughout the evening of January 6th, 2021, the coconspirators discussed the need to continue fighting to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power. In the weeks after January 6th, Rhodes purchased a large volume of firearms and related equipment.

The indictment then lists thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars worth of sights and bipods and mounts and backpacks and gun grips, ammunition, firearm parts, gun cases, holsters and gun maintenance equipment all purchased by Mr. Rhodes at that time. You see the dates there. January 10, January 11, January 12, January 13, January 14 through 19.

Adding up the purchases listed in the indictment that Rhodes made of firearms and related equipment over the short burst of time, he spent something like $40,000 right around January 6th just on weaponry.

Quote: on Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2021, one Oath Keeper messaged another, quote, after this if nothing happens, it`s war, civil war, 2.0. Around this time, quote, Mr. Rhodes messaged others to organize local militias to oppose President Biden`s administration.

For the Oath Keepers, January 6th was not the end point. It was apparently the beginning of a new phase of their fight against the government. As of today, 11 of them are facing seditious conspiracy charges, which is a serious felony count brought by U.S. federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C.

Joining us now is University of Chicago historian Kathleen Belew. She is the author of "Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America".

On the anniversary of the January 6th attack, you may recall her op-ed in "Washington Post", in which she said, quote, we still lack adequate understanding of one of the imminent dangers, the threat of militias to American democracy. She has spent a very long time studying both the white power movement and militia movement in this country.

Professor Belew, thank you very much for making time for us this evening. I appreciate you being here.


MADDOW: So we`ve had more than 700 people charged for doing various alleged crimes related to January 6th. This is a different type of crime that has been charged against the sort of different kind of defendant.

What do you think that the public should understand is different and important about these right-wing paramilitary groups like the Oath Keepers that were the subject of this indictment today?

BELEW: So I think when we think about January 6th it really represents the collision of three different groups of people. One is the Trump base which contains with it sort of a range of -- that goes from people simply attending a demonstration as she thought to people who came there either with the intent to do something more than that or swept up in the moment.

Then we have QAnon, which I think is very new and very different in tactical organization. And finally, we have what I think is the smallest group, but a very important group, which is the militant right -- militia`s white power groups and other groups that are highly organized, that come from a coherent ideology and decades if not generations of training and bring them paramilitary training, infrastructure, tactics, weapons, explosives and more.

And what we see in these charges is the beginning of a reckoning with that part of January 6th. I think the full reckoning has many parts to it, having to do with the complicity of people who are officeholders, Trump`s administration decisions about when to send in the National Guard. All of these have to do with political response.

This set of charges has to do with the on the ground violent actors who according to the indictment came to this action with an enormous amount of planning with the intention of an attack on democracy.

MADDOW: Was there anything -- I mean, there was some of the things about the behavior of the Oath Keepers and their planning around events that we had seen in other indictments, right? There is a lot of other members of the organization facing previous indictments, including serious indictments involving conspiracy charges and other things.


But I wonder if there was anything in the new indictments unsealed today that was surprising to you. I`ll tell you just reading it as a non-expert observer of these things, I was sort of surprised by the extent and expense of the arsenal, the actual arsenal of weapons that they both assembled on the day of January 6th but also around the time of January 6th and leading up to the inauguration.

That was -- that leapt out as something that was new detail I didn`t understand before. But as a more expert observer, what surprised you if anything?

BELEW: I think that`s right. In does show a higher degree of militarization and weaponization than we have seen in the lower level indictments. I think partly that`s because typically building a big case of, a seditious conspiracy case often rests on sort of the prosecutorial efforts and the fruits of the other lower stakes prosecutions leading up to that moment.

So I think the best historical cognate is the Forth Smith seditious conspiracy trial in 1987-`88, where 14 white power activists were tried on charges, including seditious conspiracy. And there again, we see a very high level of paramilitary organization, intergroup and interpersonal communication over a sustained period about the plan, and a high level of armament.

And in that trial it ended up escalating beyond what we see in this charging document to have things like those activists had gnat online sort of the typical semiautomatic rifles, which are very -- all around in the movement from the beginning to now, but that movement in `87-`88 had things like anti-tank weapons, rockets, homemade land mines and a whole bunch of training, paramilitary tactics, including urban warfare. So, in that case, there was a clear picture of evidence about an imminent threat to surrounding populations and to the nation at large.

MADDOW: And, of course, the bottom line in the Ft. Smith, Arkansas trial is that it failed as a prosecution, that the defendants were acquitted, which they celebrated in their inimitable way. I know a little bit about other mass sedition trials over U.S. history. They`re very, very difficult to prove. And even people who have done really bad things obviously in coordination with incredible weaponry for the worst possible reasons and kept records of it, they do seem to get off in these kinds of trials. These are really hard trials to win.

I wondered if that was part of your reaction to hearing the about the indictment, keeping in mind the history of how many sedition trials in the past haven`t succeeded in g he getting convictions.

BELEW: Absolutely. It`s an incredibly high stakes gambit for a number of reasons you mentioned. And also because over and over again, what we see with major prosecutions of white power and militant groups, is that when there is a failure, people are acquitted and movement packages acquittal as a victory for organizes, we see big upticks in violence on the other side. You can draw a direct line for the 1987-`88 Fort Smith trial to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

And the other thing is that the way -- I`m speaking now as a historian not a legal scholar. But the way that the burden of proof works in seditious conspiracy trials makes it tremendously difficult to translate white power ideology and militant right anti-government ideology into this particular form. So for instance, in Fort Smith people were interested in how could a plot like this possibly succeed, right? So, if it`s a seditious conspiracy, do they have a chance of in fact overthrowing the government?

If you are sitting on the side of an ordinary person, a regular ideology or mainstream political view, it seems very wild to think that a small group of people could pose a threat to the most militarized super state in world history. But if you are this group of white power activists, they had a plan for self-styled terrorism, guerilla warfare, disrupting infrastructure, for sabotage and assassination, and they took a long view of gradual destabilization leading to race war that they believed could work.

So this question of ability to carry out a plan came into play in ways that just were not translated very well, for instance in jury instruction.

MADDOW: All right. Although the psychological barrier of being able to imagine a coup effort working suddenly got a lot easier for everybody in the country, including you go presumably every member of some future jury a year ago this month.

It`s fascinating stuff in the history here. The history here is rich and dark and fascinating, and doesn`t point in any one direction in a simple way.

Professor Kathleen Belew at the University of Chicago, again, the author of the excellent book, bring the war home, "White Power Movement and Paramilitary America" -- it`s really great that you were able to be with us tonight.


I`m glad you were able to be here. Thank you.

BELEW: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We got much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: So for the last few days on this show, we`ve been covering this admittedly strange story about what appears to have been a coordinated effort. We don`t know who coordinated it. But it was a coordinated effort after the last election in which Republicans and in multiple states signed forged documents claim to be the electors from their states, ready to cast votes for the Electoral College.

In five states, at least, Republicans did this. In all five states, the forged documents they produced as part of the scheme, the documents were pretty much identical, same font, same had headline, same spacing same wording, including the part where the Republicans in each states they signed their names and claimed to be, quote, the duly elected and qualified electors from their states, which they emphatically were not.


Well, since we`ve been reporting on this this week, we have learned that one of the people who apparently signed one of these forged documents asserting that he was an elector appears now to be a Republican United States Senate candidate in Arizona, a man named James Lamon. He wants to be a Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Arizona to run against Mark Kelly. He appears to have signed this forged document asserting he was a duly elected elector from the state of Arizona when he was not.

We have reached out to Mr. Lamon for comment but we so far have not heard back from him about his apparently role in this forged document scandal.

We also have tracked down footage of the proverbial crime being committed. Footage of the Republicans who took part in the schemes in various states, footage of them meeting and signing the forged documents.

This, for example, is footage of the meeting where Georgia Republicans filled out their forged elector document in December 2020. Again, this is Georgia. We also found food footage of fake electors signing the documents in the great state of Nevada.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Donald J. Trump of the state of Florida having received six electoral votes is declared the winner of the electoral votes for the state of Nevada. We will now do the certification of the votes of the electors from Nevada for president.

Certificate reads, we the undersigned the duly elected and qualified electors to president and vice-president for the United States of the America from the state of Nevada hereby certify the following. We convened and organized at the state capitol in Carson City, Nevada, on the 14th day of December 2020 to perform the duties upon us to assemble and organize. Do proceeded to vote by ballot, balloted first for president and then for vice-president. Name of the persons voted for is Donald J. Trump of the state of Florida he received six votes want and we will sign -- we will sign this certificate that will go to the Senate and also to the archivist of the United States.


MADDOW: Donald J. Trump of the state of Florida having received six election votes is declared of the winner of the electoral votes for the state of Nevada. Really? Declared by whom? Declared by you? What are you talking about?

Donald Trump did not win Nevada. He did he not win any electoral votes from Nevada. But these folks pro claimed that he did. And, you know, it`s one thing -- it`s your blessed right to say something like if you want to on a soapbox on a street corner or to ruin your relatives otherwise nice turkey dinner by insisting you want to they will them the crazy theories at the Thanksgiving dinner.

You can say it. It`s fine. But it`s something else to put it in writing in a document purposely made to look like official state government document for that document to assert that it is an official state government document and for you to then send it to the National Archives of the United States and the United States Senate in the hopes that they think this thing you forged might be real. That`s different.

But that is what these guys did. And it does appear to have been a coordinated effort. And we do not yet know by whom. Republicans in multiple states have asserted that the Trump campaign asked them to do something like there. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in his production to the January 6th investigation appears to have been in communication with someone or someones about this type of a scheme. But who actually got this to happen and distributed the obvious document template by which the states created the similar forgeries. We don`t know. We know they did in Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan.

In Michigan, we also have footage from the day they tried to do it in the case of Michigan the footage is of Republicans trying to get into a side door of the Michigan state capitol telling the state police captain they`re the real electors and they needed to be let in to cast the Electoral College votes for Michigan. The state police officers politely told them to buzz off and closed the doors.

Police knew to do that because the real -- the real electors were at that moment inside actually doing this thing for real. So these folks were clearly imposters.

Well, now, thanks to the developing story, thanks to the renewed attention to this matter now that it appears that someone coordinated the mass forgery effort in these states, thanks in particular to reporter Craig Mauger at "The Detroit News" who did great reporting this week in Michigan.


Now, we know more of what happened after that moment I just showed you. We know more of what happened after the state troopers blocked the imposter Republican electors from trying to get into the Michigan state capitol that day. We know that they -- even though they couldn`t get into the Capitol, we know that they did create one of these forged electors documents, that matches the one we have seen from four other states. In the forged document, they asserted they were the real official electors which they absolutely were not.

They asserted further that as of duly appointed electors of the state of Michigan, they had convened in the Michigan state capitol, which they did not. We could see that thanks to that upright and polite state police captain who told them no.

We know further that the Michigan Republicans who signed the forged document claiming to be electors from their state, they actually did send it into the national archives as if a real document. We know that because on January 8th last year, two days after the attack on the Capitol, the National Archives in Washington sent a copy of that forged document back to Michigan. Send it to the state government in Michigan, quote, for your awareness.

Quote, for your awareness we received today unofficial certificates from the Republican electors who were not appointed by the governor. I have attached a scan of what we received for your information. Because this did not come from the Michigan secretary of state`s office we will not be adding the documents to the Electoral College website.

Again, that`s the National Archives this time last year, letting Michigan`s real elected officials know that this forgery had been sent in purported to be Michigan`s electoral votes, and the archives was clear that it was not. But they wanted Michigan officials to know that this had happened, for your awareness.

Michigan state officials including the Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and some of her staff reportedly met with the January 6th investigation late last year. According to a great public records dive by "The Detroit News", that meeting between Secretary of State Benson and her staff on and the January 6th investigators followed after by Benson`s office sending the January 6th investigation some kind of documentation about the Republican`s forgery effort in Michigan. Benson`s office reportedly provided on December 3rd information about both the forgery effort and the reaction of the National Archives to receiving it. They provided that information to Capitol Hill, to the January 6th investigators.

So you piece all that together and what we know is the January 6th investigation is on this part of the plot. And there remains this interesting question whether the Republicans who did this in the five states, whether they are potentially on the hook for having violated the law, right? I mean, it`s not illegal to have crazy ideas. It`s kind of illegal to forge election related documents, right?

Was it illegal in any of these states to forge these kinds of election- related documents and to try to pass them off as real?

Asked to comment on that this week by "The Detroit News" was spokesperson for the attorney general`s office in Michigan told "The Detroit News" basically stay tuned, quote: That matter is part of an investigation into election-related matters. We are not currently in a position to share specifics as the review remains ongoing.

An ongoing investigation, do you say, really? Count me intrigued.

Both the attorney general of the great state of Michigan, Dana Nessel and the secretary of state of the great state of Michigan, Jocelyn Benson are going to join us live here next.

Stay with us.




POLICE OFFICER: Capitol is closed. Or if you are taking part in the process, anybody else not permitted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are all electors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are electors.

POLICE OFFICER: The electors are here and checked in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not all the electors are inside.

POLICE OFFICER: Capitol is closed. All electors authorized by the governor staff, the Electoral College is checked in and here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the GOP electors --

POLICE OFFICER: I understand.



MADDOW: We`re electors. We`re electors. We`re electors.

These guys saying we`re electors. They were not the electors. Not the real ones. They were Michigan Republicans who tried to crash the Electoral College vote ceremony in Michigan to try to cast Michigan`s electoral votes for Trump instead of Biden even though Trump lost the state.

Well, now, as we`ve been reporting this week, 16 Michigan Republicans went on to sign names to fake elector documents claiming that Trump was the rightful winner of Michigan`s electoral votes, claiming that were therefore the rightful electors and should be counted as such. They sent the documents to the National Archives, to the United States Senate, to be counted as part of Trump`s electoral tally.

This is the same weird Republican forgery scheme that was apparently being run at least in five states in what appears to have been a coordinated effort. It is now starting to catch the attention apparently of multiple investigations that are looking into the effort to overturn the election and the attack on January 6th. The person in charge of Michigan`s elections is secretary of state Jocelyn Benson.

She and her staff reportedly spoken to the January 6th investigation in Congress, including to provide information about the forged elector documents in her state. We know that from a public records request filed by "The Detroit News". But we also know this: according to a spokesperson for the attorney general`s office in Michigan, this matter, the fake elector assertion, these forged documents from Michigan Republicans, this is according to a spokeswoman from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, this is part of an ongoing investigation in the state of Michigan.


Joining us now are both Jocelyn Benson, secretary of state in Michigan, and Dana Nessel, who`s Michigan attorney general.

Secretary Benson, General Nessel, thank you for being here. I really appreciate you both being here. I know it`s a coup to have either one of you, but to have you both is a real pleasure. Thank you.


DANA NESSEL (D), MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: (INAUDIBLE) because this is sensitive topic.

MADDOW: Well, Madam Attorney General, let me start with you.

We have had questions since we started to realize the scope of this scheme as to whether or not this -- it implicates criminal acts, whether or not it`s legal to forge an election related document like this, to assert yourself to be an public official effectively when you`re not. Is this potentially a matter for criminal investigation?

NESSEL: Yeah, absolutely it is. And I will tell you that we`ve been evaluating charges for nearly a year now based on these activities, as soon as we became aware of that. So, I will say under state law I think clearly, you have forgery of a public record, which is a 14-year offense and election law forgery which is a five-year offense.

But what we have decided to do with the investigation in light of the fact that, of course, we have seen as you pointed out multiple times now, various different false slate of electors from seven different states, in what seems to be a coordinated effort between the Republican parties in various different states, we think this is a matter that is best investigated and potentially prosecuted by the feds. And as such just today we referred this matter to the western district, the U.S. attorney`s office, for them to evaluate it and we hope that Main Justice -- the Department of Justice will become involved and use the information they already have to better understand exactly what happened that day so that federal charges can be evaluated.

MADDOW: So, your office, attorney general office in Michigan referred this matter for potential prosecution to the federal prosecutors` office in Michigan as of today?

NESSEL: As of today, we`ve been evaluating what we were going to do with it. And we had thought that it was very possible that we could bring charges. And we still might. And we still might. Of course, there is no double jeopardy if you bring both state and federal charges for the same offenses.

But obviously, this is part of a much bigger conspiracy. And our hope is that the federal authorities and the Department of Justice, and United States Attorney General Merrick Garland will take this in coordination with all the other information they received, and make an evaluation as to what charges these individuals might face. I mean, I can think of many, forgery of a public record for the purposes of defrauding the United States or conspiracy to commit an offense to defraud the United States. And there are so many others. But that will be up to the feds to decide.

MADDOW: Secretary Benson, let me ask you about some of what we know and some of which I don`t -- I don`t know if you can talk about.

"The Detroit News" in it`s infinity wisdom used public records requests to find out some of the documentation that has traveled between your office, other Michigan state offices and the January 6th investigation in Congress. That`s how we know that some of this information has been given by your staff by your office to the January 6th investigation. And they -- they appear to be looking at this in multiple states.

Can you tell us any more about that? About your offices` involvement, about you receiving this information and indeed passing it on?

BENSON: Well, yeah, and first I`ll just emphasize this is precisely why the work of the January 6th Committee is so critical because there is dozens of ways like the one we are talking about in which the president and many of his supporters attempted to interfere with the integrity of our elections and thwart the will of the people.

And so, with this investigation we`ve been able to connect the dots in participating and Cooperating with the committee`s investigation identify this coordinated component of something that really up until then just came to us. We received notification from the National Archives as you pointed out, and saying that this alternate false slate of electors had been submitted.

We, of course, lived through the -- what you showed you earlier, because the attorney general and I were in the state capitol when the -- the false slate of the electors we`ll say showed up outside. And amidst all of that there were a lot of security concerns and threats percolating as well. And so, it was a very tense moment for all of us.

And so in the midst of all that, we were seeing this as yet another way in which the former president tried to impose his will over the will of the voters, and, you know, outside the law in really unprecedented way.


And again, you know, turn it over to the attorney general`s office -- to Attorney General Nessel`s office for the investigation at that point and also what the National Archives know that we have received it. But, of course, that it was not an accurate reflection of the electors awarded in our state.

MADDOW: Just to play dumb here a little bit for a second, I think I know the answer to this, Secretary Benson, but tell me true. Is this the sort of thing that`s happened before in the state of Michigan? Is this something you`ve ever seen in your role as chief administrator in elections in the state?

Is this -- is this something that just looks weird to us from a national perspective but actually people try this kind of thing all the time?

BENSON: No, and for good reason. It would be up to really 2020 had seen a great deal of respect deference to our voters, which was really upended in the chaos and confusion that, you know, we saw surrounding the 2020 post- election process.

So, this is unprecedented. We`re in an unchartered territory. I know both of us have been asked a lot as this has come out, what was legal, what was illegal, and I think it`s important to emphasize here that this was all unprecedented.

That`s why it`s important for us not to just ensure truth continues to emerge as to just how far folks were willing to go to overturn a free and fair election just because they didn`t like the results, because we not only need to see justice and accountability in this matter for those who broke the law, but we need to work to put protections in place to ensure we do not see a repeat of these nefarious tactics in future elections.

MADDOW: And Attorney General Nessel, let me ask you as a legal matter, you`ve already referenced this in relation to the idea that this might be best prosecuted as a federal matter because it happened in multiple states. But if we are able to figure out, if the country is able to figure out, who did this? I mean, this was a paint-by-numbers, fill in the blank template that all of these Republicans used in five -- at least five different states to do this. If we can figure out who distributed the template, who put them up to this, who told them how to do it, does that change anything about the potentially criminal nature or the seriousness of this?

NESSEL: I think it does. And I think that you`re talking about a conspiracy, really, to overthrow the United States government. I mean, at the end of the day, that`s what we`re talking about.

So why I think it`s so important to refer this to the federal authorities is because for a lot of these individuals -- and the irony, of course, is that many of those people that you saw outside the state capitol on December 14 they showed footage of, they were the loudest to complain of election fraud, and yet, here they have committed ostensibly the most significant case of election fraud ever in our state`s history.

But, you know, I think it`s important that once those individuals see that they could possibly be facing prison time, I do think we`re going to see some flip and we`ll get some further information as to who orchestrated this in the first place, who told this people to do this, and exactly in this fashion, and it may go all the way to the top.

MADDOW: Dana Nessel is the attorney general of the great state of Michigan, Jocelyn Benson is the secretary of state of the great state of Michigan, both of you, I`m very grateful for your time. I`m particularly grateful to have both of you here together. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. You`ve advanced our understanding here tonight.

BENSON: Our pleasure, Rachel. Thanks for covering this.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.



MADDOW: So, we just got a bit of breaking news just a few moments ago.

The Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer just announced the Senate is going to postpone the recess they were going to take next week, and instead will return on Tuesday and go into session on Tuesday to vote on voting rights. He just said on the Senate floor, quote, make no mistake, the United States Senate will, for the first time this Congress, debate voting rights legislation beginning on Tuesday.

And if the Senate Republicans choose obstruction over protecting the sacred right to vote, as we expect them to, the Senate will consider and vote on changing the Senate rules.

Again, he says that will happen Tuesday. That is news. Senator Schumer just said that on the Senate floor. That is not how anybody was expecting this to go. I don`t know.

More ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: I have accidentally trod deep into Lawrence`s O`Donnell`s territory. So I will say does it for me tonight. I`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence. Sorry.